Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

Asperger’s & NLD Career Letter, April 2019

One of the ways that employers evaluate job candidates is with behavioral interview questions. These frequently focus on aspects of interpersonal communication in the workplace. A job seeker may be asked to describe a time when he or she demonstrated leadership, dealt with an unexpected problem, or disagreed with a supervisor on how to perform a task. The premise is that the way a person handled a situation in the past is a strong indicator of how he or she will handle a similar situation in the future.

Behavioral questions can also focus on your ability to adapt to difficult situations, learn from your mistakes and get along with others.

One of the most common behavioral interview questions is, “Describe a time when you dealt with a conflict.” This is because it is common for employees to have disagreements from time to time.

Elizabeth responded to this question with an example of a meeting she missed because of a doctor’s appointment. The next day, she emailed her co-worker, Sandra, asking her to send the meeting notes. Two days later, Sandra had not responded to Elizabeth’s request. Elizabeth emailed Sandra asking why she was being so rude. Sandra became angry, and accused Elizabeth of rudeness! Elizabeth’s solution to the conflict was to avoid Sandra as much as possible.

Elizabeth chose a poor example. She assumed that Sandra was ignoring her, but it turned out that Sandra had been given an extra assignment and hadn’t had time to respond promptly. Elizabeth reacted to her assumption instead of asking Sandra what happened. Additionally, Elizabeth’s solution was impractical. She and Sandra were members of the same work team, and frequently had to interact.

The SAR method is a good way to prepare responses to behavioral questions. SAR is an acronym that stands for Situation, Action, Result. You describe a situation, the action that you took, and the outcome. In essence, you tell a mini story that illustrates how you responded to a work related event.

Eric described a disagreement he had with a colleague about whether a discount applied to certain items his employer sold online. The colleague believed that the items were discounted; but Eric believed that they were not due to a software bug. After doing some research, he got in touch with the software developer who fixed the bug. Eric informed his co-worker that now the items would be correctly discounted.

This is a strong response. Rather than argue with his co-worker, Eric researched the problem, and took constructive action.

It is crucial that your SAR story communicate to a prospective employer that you can handle workplace situations in a  professional manner. Research some common questions and sample responses. If you are uncertain about the quality of your SAR story, seek assistance from some knowledgeable.

Copyright 2019, Barbara Bissonnette, Forward Motion Coaching